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City’s Threat to Pride Toronto Condemned Internationally

April 26, 2010

Letters of support for the inclusion of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in Toronto’s gay pride parade have poured in from prominent groups and activists locally and abroad, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Queer Ontario, and LGBT organizations in Palestine and Israel.

City of Toronto staff were quoted in the Toronto Star on April 18 suggesting that future city funding for Pride Toronto may be jeopardized if the activist group is allowed to march in this year’s parade.

“We are appalled by attempts made at the City of Toronto to use censorship measures against the pride parade’s participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid,” reads an April 25 letter of support from Israeli Queers for Palestine. “We wish to pledge our support to QuAIA in this time of unjust political persecution for their courageous standing for Palestinian rights and against any form of oppression.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote a letter to mayor David Miller on April 20 objecting to the threat to Pride funding. “In activities such as parades, art exhibitions and theatre performances, points of view on controversial subjects may be expressed that may make individuals from specific communities uncomfortable. Freedom of expression is central to such activities, however, and these considerations alone should not preclude public funding.”

“We believe that as queers, one of the most disadvantaged and oppressed minorities in human societies, we should protest against all forms of oppression and struggle together,” says a joint letter from Palestinian queer organizations al-Qaws and Aswat. “As Palestinian queers, our struggle relates to social injustices caused by the discrimination that is deeply rooted in Israel’s policies and practices against the Palestinian people, straight and gay alike.”

On April 24, Queer Ontario issued a statement denouncing the threat from city staff. “We are particularly concerned about how the word ‘apartheid’ is being interpreted as ‘hate’ and the implications of such on free speech. We are disturbed that such a warning was issued based upon mere reports from ‘some’ city councilors and unspecified members of ‘the public’, without proper research being conducted first.”

Co-founder of the U.S.-based Lesbian Avengers Sarah Schulman wrote to Pride Toronto on April 20 to express her gratitude that the censorship attempts have so far proven unsuccessful. She wrote: “I would be happy to do whatever I can to show support for the continuation of Pride as a day that we all share together.”

“We salute QuAIA for their courageous and moral stance against Israeli apartheid and Israel’s blatant disregard of international law,” said an April 23 statement issued by the group Palestinian Queers for Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions. “We support QuAIA for their outstanding solidarity actions, including the refusal to be silenced by the decision of the City of Toronto.”

STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT:

Israeli Queers for Palestine
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
al-Qaws and Aswat
Queer Ontario
Sarah Schulman
Palestinian Queers for Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions
Seriously Free Speech Committee (Vancouver)
Independent Jewish Voices
United Jewish People’s Order

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